Plan The Work, Work The Plan

In about six weeks from now your team will be heading home for the holidays. In about eight weeks they’ll pick up where they left off – heading in what they believe is the “right direction”.

And while you’ll want your brand to do better in 2014 than it did in 2013, so will every other brand manager out there.

What will you do to build brand fidelity – not just brand loyalty?

While I’m not going to attempt a summary of best practices here because the right approach for your business depends on your management style, your business category, competitive environment, brand positioning, and where your brand is on its brand life-line, here are a few things to take to heart:

  1. You need a plan. Period. Many businesses I work with don’t have one and wander around lost.
  2. You need to plan the work. A plan, however rudimentary, enables you to define your goals and justify them emotionally and intellectually. Both kinds of justification are important as they will combine to create a far more compelling force with which to propel you towards your goal.
  3. You need to work the plan. The plan needs to be understood by all and worked by all because a good plan helps employees and customers clearly understand the terms of the brand relationship.

Many people don’t like “working the plan”. I have two thoughts on this:

  1. If it is a trusted brand stakeholder with a progressive idea based on a logical consumer insight, find a way of doing a cost-benefit study without affecting the pace and trajectory of your original plan.
  2. If it is an impatient or frustrated individual who thinks that they have a short-cut to your success – proceed with caution. The greatest names in every discipline known to man are slaves to repetition.
  3. Because it takes time and perspective to write a good, actionable plan, start now. Consider reviewing your current plan and your progress in the next two weeks. Then look at the changing competitive terrain and decide where you want your brand to be in December 2014. Agree multiple paths to the 2014 goal line with your management team.

Prepare a presentation for early January 2014 that outlines the Goals, Strategies + Tactics for 2014.

Break the tactics down to the individual level to ensure each person on your team knows exactly what they need to do to help the brand make its year.

Need help with your plan or presentation? e-me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Shop local this Christmas


This morning I heard a story on CBC that I hadn’t heard in a long time: “shop local”. Apparently Toronto merchants are banding together to encourage shoppers to shop local this Christmas. The counterpoint of this news-bite was a woman who told the reporter that she and her daughter “always go to Buffalo because there are so many more bargains”. I hear the same stupid story when I’m in Winnipeg where residents love to brag about the great deals they can get in Grand Forks.

While the "deals" are there, the only polite way I can describe this behavior is economically short-sighted. If you’re earning your money here and you’re spending your money there, who and what is supposed to pay for the infrastructure you insist on having – including state of the art health care with no waiting times and the same-old-same-old postal service standards despite the fact that you’re doing everything by e-mail and e-transfer?

Consider these facts I gathered from Wikipedia.

The service sector in Canada is vast and multifaceted, employing about three quarters of Canadians and accounting for 78% of GDP. The largest employer is the retail sector, employing almost 12% of Canadians. The retail industry is mainly concentrated in a small number of chain stores clustered together in shopping malls. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of big-box stores, such as Wal-Mart, Future Shop, Zellers-Target and Home Depot. This has led to fewer workers in this sector and a migration of retail jobs to the suburbs.

The second largest portion of the service sector is the business services, employing only a slightly smaller percentage of the population. This includes the financial services, real estate, and communications industries. This portion of the economy has been rapidly growing in recent years. It is largely concentrated in the major urban centres, especially Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

This helps to explain why you'll see so many ghost-town (when driving) across Canada. Locally the big box malls bankrupt the small towns' main-streets. Regionally the larger cities attract the kids from the small towns with hope of finding a good job and an interesting future. With-in a generation all that's left is a boarded up town. Homes and businesses can’t be sold because the town’s cash flow has been siphoned off locally and regionally.

Today our unemployment rates vary from 5% in the West to 14% in the East.

If you shop local it doesn’t have to be that way.

At the local level you can buy almost anything you want or need to enjoy the good life if you give your head a little shake.

  • Replace the international hunt for lots of bargains with a local hunt for lots of quality that's rewarded with repeat purchases.
  • Replace the international hunt for cheap with a local hunt for good value that's rewarded with referals.
  • Replace the international hunt to save a buck with a local hunt to save a job that's rewarded with lower unemployment rates, vibrant communites, pride of ownership, community support and more.
  • Replace your silly new year resolutions with a few smart ones like: buy local, buy quality, say no to sales, say yes to a fair price + good value and standup for a fair minimum wage that enables a single individual to afford to live with dignity (not in a shelter supported by food banks).

Please think about the ripple effect your behavior can have before you spend your hard-earned dollars "there".


In honour of Dr. Martin Luther King



Sorry, no more Canadian cars

I recently spoke to a woman here on business from Oklahoma. She was driving a Hertz rental car and immersing herself in as much Canadian culture as she could jam into her time off. So you can imagine how disappointed she was that Hertz didn't offer any “Canadian” car rentals.

I went off looking for why and found the following on CBC News Online | August 21, 2006 and Wikipedia:

  • More than 500 different car companies have called Canada home – most of them in the early 1900s and most were Canadian-owned.
  • Between 1918 and 1923, Canada was the world's second-largest carmaker and a major exporter.
  • By 1925, GM, Ford and Chrysler – controlled 75% of the American car market. A 35% import tariff ensured some manufacturing stayed in Canada.
  • The 1926 Canadian content law was a boon to Canadian part manufacturers.
  • By the mid-1930s Canadian owned car companies were all gone.

The Bricklin SV-1 was a gull-wing door sports car assembled in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. The body panels were manufactured in a separate plant in Minto, New Brunswick. Manufactured from 1974 until early 1976 for the U.S. market, the car was the creation of Malcolm Bricklin, an American millionaire who had previously founded Subaru of America. The Bricklin factory was not able to produce vehicles fast enough to make a profit. As a result, only 2,854 cars were built before the company went into receivership, owing the New Brunswick government $23 million.

I’m thinking that the next opportunity for a Canadian car could come from India or China if these two super-powers can crack our domestic (auto) manufacturing challenge:

  • Most Canadian’s will only buy leading edge domestic products that create high paying jobs in Canada IF the products are sold below cost.
  • Think RIM.

I must be VERY slow, cynical or stupid


I must be slow


When I started reading this recruitment ad I was intrigued.

As I read on I felt intimidated – do I really have what it takes?

Then I got to the desired skills section and laughed: where on earth does someone with “3+ years in an ad agency or other related service industry" assemble that kind of world-class portfolio of account management skills?

  • What are they really screening for - Hyperbolae?
  • Would you trust your world-class brand to an Account Manager with 3+ years of agency or related service industry experience?